Referenda And Recall Updates

Referenda And Recall Updates

 

 

In the last two weeks of the spring Legislative session, the Alberta government introduced and debated Bill 51 (the Citizen Initiative Act) and Bill 52 (the Recall Act).

Overall, we're pleased that these two Bills have passed and are now law in Alberta, but we're also very concerned that the way they have been implemented will mean that it will be virtually impossible to achieve either a citizen-initiated referendum or a recall vote.

In this update, we'd like to give you an overview of what happened in the Legislative debate, outline some amendments that were proposed to improve the laws, show you how your representatives voted on those amendments, and explain what the path forward looks like now.

 

Citizen Initiated Referenda

 

Citizen Initiative Referenda are a legal process that allows voters to sign a formal petition to force a referendum vote on a matter of public importance that the provincial government is otherwise unwilling to undertake.

The government's Citizen Initiative Referenda Bill, as proposed included:

  • 10% of eligible voters (the equivalent of about 20% of those who actually voted last time) must sign a petition for a Legislative or Policy referenda
  • 20% of eligible voters (the equivalent of about 40% of those who actually voted last time) must sign a petition for a Constitutional referenda
  • Signatures must be collected within a 90 day period

Our alternative proposal was:

  • 5% of eligible voters (the equivalent of about 10% of those who actually voted last time) must sign a petition for a Legislative or Policy referenda
  • 10% of eligible voters (the equivalent of about 20% of those who actually voted last time) must sign a petition for a Constitutional referenda
  • Signatures must be collected within a 180 day period

Thanks to your help, in the time between the introduction of the Bill and the debate in the Legislature, we were able to bring significant attention to these shortcomings.

As a result, several amendments to the Bill were proposed by various MLAs from both sides of the aisles that were similar or identical to our suggestions.

 

Amendment A4: Lowering the threshold on legislative and policy referenda from 10% of electors to 5% and on constitutional referenda from 20% of electors to 10%.

  • Proposed By: Todd Loewen (Independent, Central Peace-Notley)
  • Voted For: Jason Stephan (UCP, Red Deer-South), Drew Barnes (Independent, Cypress-Medicine Hat), Todd Loewen (Independent, Central Peace-Notley) 
  • Voted Against: Pat Rehn (Independent, Lesser Slave Lake), all other present UCP MLAs (other than Jason Stephan), and all present NDP MLAs
  • Result: Defeated 3-34

Amendment A9: Increase the time window for collecting signatures from 90 days to 180 days.

  • Proposed By: Drew Barnes (Independent, Cypress-Medicine Hat)
  • Result: Defeated on a voice vote (no division held)

 

 

Recall

 

Recall gives voters a mechanism to remove elected officials in between elections, rather than having to wait until the next election, if they feel they are no longer being appropriately represented.

The government's Recall Bill, as proposed included:

  • No Recall permitted in the 18 months after an election or in the 6 months before an election
  • 40% of eligible voters (the equivalent of about 80% of those who actually voted last time) must sign a petition for a recall
  • Signatures must be collected within a 60 day period
  • A successful petition does not remove the MLA automatically, a vote must be held and only if a majority vote to recall the MLA are they recalled, triggering a by-election which the MLA could run in, should they wish

Our alternative proposal was:

  • Recall permitted any time (none could occur in the first 6 months anyway, as the process takes 6 months, while any that happen in the last 6 months would still recall the MLA but not trigger a by-election)
  • 10% of eligible voters (the equivalent of about 20% of those who actually voted last time) must sign a petition for a recall
  • Signatures must be collected within a 180 day period
  • A successful petition should remove the MLA automatically, triggering a by-election which the MLA could run in, should they wish

Thanks to your help, in the time between the introduction of the Bill and the debate in the Legislature, we were able to bring significant attention to these shortcomings.

As a result, several amendments to the Bill were proposed by various MLAs from both sides of the aisles that were similar or identical to our suggestions.

 

Amendment A1: Eliminate the double vote procedure so that if a Recall petition is successful the MLA is immediately be removed and a by-election will be called.

  • Proposed By: Todd Loewen (Independent, Central Peace-Notley)
  • Voted For: Todd Loewen (Independent, Central Peace-Notley), Drew Barnes (Independent, Cypress-Medicine Hat), and all present NDP MLAs
  • Voted Against: All present UCP MLAs
  • Result: Defeated 9-33

Amendment A3: Lowering the number of signatures required to recall a politician from 40% of eligible electors to 25%.

  • Proposed By: Thomas Dang (New Democrat, Edmonton-South)
  • Voted For: All present NDP MLAs, Drew Barnes (Independent, Cypress-Medicine Hat), and Todd Loewen (Independent, Central Peace-Notley)
  • Voted Against: Pat Rehn (Independent, Lesser Slave Lake), all present UCP MLAs
  • Result: Defeated 9-33

Amendment A5: Increasing the time window for collecting signatures from 60 days to 120 days.

  • Proposed By: Drew Barnes (Independent, Cypress-Medicine Hat)
  • Voted For: Drew Barnes (Independent, Cypress-Medicine Hat), Todd Loewen (Independent, Central Peace-Notley)
  • Voted Against: All present UCP MLAs and all present NDP MLAs
  • Result: Defeated 2-38

Amendment A7: Allow Recall petitions to start 12 months after an election instead of 18 months after.

  • Proposed By: Drew Barnes (Independent, Cypress-Medicine Hat)
  • Result: Defeated on a voice vote (no division held)

 

Next Steps

 

As you can see, unfortunately, none of these proposed amendments were successful, meaning that both Bills passed as originally proposed by the government.

However, we should not overlook the fact that the Bills did pass, meaning Alberta does now have Citizens Initiative Referenda and Recall legislation in place.

We strongly believe that now that the legislation is already in place, it will be far easier to amend and improve this legislation in future, than it would be to introduce entirely new bills.

We also hope that our recommendations for how these Bills should have been amended this time can form the basis for improvements to the legislation in the future.

Both Citizen Initiative Referenda and Recall are fundamental democratic reforms that many of us have been fighting for, for decades.

The passage of Bills 51 and 52 is not the end of the journey, only the beginning, and we plan to continue pushing to improve these pieces of legislation in the future.


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  • Peter McCaffrey
    published this page in News 2021-06-23 15:38:12 -0600